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Baur, Ivo (2015): Analyzing and modeling the use of common property pastures in Grindelwald, Switzerland. Dissertation, LMU München: Faculty of Geosciences



Problem. More than ever, some of the biggest challenges to society involve governance of natural resources. From large-scale resource systems such as the rain forest and oceans to small-scale systems such as lakes or alpine pastures, cooperative efforts are required to ensure sustainable and yet productive use of natural resources. In Switzerland, the management of alpine pastures has for centuries been predominantly organized by local governance institutions, avoiding an overuse of the scarce resources. During the past decade, the use and maintenance of common property pastures (CPP) is declining, leading to land abandonment and forest regrowth. However, CPP provide significant services to the mountain regions, such as additional grazing grounds, assets for the tourism industry, protection from soil erosion, water run-off and landslides, and high biodiversity. These services are currently threatened by reduced use and maintenance of the CPP. Research Aims. The research presented herein aims for a better understanding of social-ecological interactions driving the use of CPP to provide policy recommendations for the sustainable governance of CPP. Methods. To generate a holistic understanding of the variables driving CPP use, this research used multiple methods to investigate CPP use in Grindelwald, Switzerland as a social-ecological system (SES). The research was structured in 4 modules. First, qualitative methods were applied to analyze institutional change in the governance of CPP. Second, regression models were built from survey data to better understand farmers’ land-use decision. Third, an analysis of the ecological system was conducted bases on land-cover statistics. Forth, a systems dynamics model of the local SES was built and combined with formative scenario analysis to investigate potential future developments of CPP use. Results. The outcomes of the different modules suggest that: First, local governance systems originally designed to prevent overuse of CPP are able to adapt to problems of declining use and maintenance of CPP by altering a set of rules. Second, farmers’ use of CPP depend on personal attributes, including farm size, norms, and dependence on the resource. Furthermore, the analysis suggests that high local demand and prices for alpine cheese are a central factor in the sustainable use of CPP. Third, the land-cover analysis showed that afforestation occurs in Grindelwald at a relatively moderate pace and defines the area most prone to afforestation and bush encroachment. Fourth, the simulation model allows for the display of complex social-ecological interactions, showing that afforestation tendencies are likely to continue, although at different pace depending on the scenario setting. Conclusion. This research provides a better understanding of CPP use through the analysis of the subsystem characterizing the SES. It showed how the general framework for analyzing social-ecological systems can be operationalized using a broad set of methods. It thereby contributed and advanced central themes within the study of the commons such as institutional analysis, users’ behavior in cooperative dilemmas, and modeling of SES. The integration of the findings from different modules into a simulation provided insights about the effects of different policies on the sustainability of the SES, and thereby demonstrated why particular policy blueprints will rather accelerate than counteract the problem of CPP abandonment.